Day 380 Following the Sea Wall to Folkestone

Friday 19 August 2016

New Romney to Folkestone

14 miles (+ bus)

Best Western Clifton Hotel

I set off along the sea front to Dymchurch and then on to Hythe. It was another grey day and the sea front seemed to go on forever just with changes to the type of promenade; concrete or Tarmac, raised or beach level, wide or thin. 

grass promenade at Littlestone-on-Sea
Tarmac promenade on the way to St Mary’s
I passed a lot of Martello Towers today, all looking slightly different depending upon their current usage or decoration. 

one Martello Tower…

…and another one (in disguise!)
I passed along the fronts of St Mary’s Bay and Dymchurch, neither places looked particularly appealing. 

another promenade, another Martello Tower, it must be Dymchurch!
Halfway between Dymchurch and Hythe is the Dymchurch Redoubt, which was originally a depot built in the early 1800s to service the 21 Martello Towers in the short stretch between Rye and Hythe. 

Dymchurch Redoubt, on Hythe Ranges
It was a very grey day and heavy rain and winds were forecast, hence I had started early. I caught a bus for 2 miles along the main road from Dymchurch Redoubt to Hythe as the footpath was pushed off the sea front by Hythe Ranges and followed the main road. 

the Royal Military Canal in Hythe
In Hythe I found the Royal Military Canal again, as it cut out the the sea. The town centre was quite nice, with lots of independent shops, and I stopped at a lovely French Patisserie for coffee and a fancy cake as it had just started to rain. 

always a sucker for great coffee and cake
Hythe labels itself as “the jewel of SE Kent, where the countryside meets the sea”.

Hythe’s fisherman’s beach (more Martello Towers in the background)
Like Hastings, Hythe also had a fisherman’s beach. It had stopped raining when I set off along the promenade to Folkestone, but it was very cloudy and only a matter of time before more rain fell. Fortunately, by the time it did, I would be ensconced in my hotel room for an evening of relative comfort watching the Olympics on television. 

walking from Hythe to Folkestone
Folkestone has been a popular seaside resort since the 1800s (presumably after everyone stopped worrying about Napoleon invading). It has the requisite beach huts and promenade but sadly no pier. Its pier was opened in 1888 and demolished in 1954. In the meantime it was the host for Britain’s first ever recorded beauty contest, in 1907, that was one by Netty Bainbridge. 

beach huts on the promenade, including one that was artwork in the style of a lighthouse)
Folkestone is built on a cliff and so I found myself walking along the promenade at the base of the cliff. I didn’t need to walk up the cliff road as I could get the Leas Lift, a water balance cliff lift, up to the top. 

the Leas Lift
I walked past a few big hotels and through the main, soulless, shopping centre to get to the post office where I should collect my next set of maps. Yet again I was let down by the Post Office (for the 3rd out of 5 times) as their staff don’t even know what services they provide (despite previous phone calls and assurances). It was incredibly frustrating and I struggled to retain composure. The smallest things can seem soul-destroying on this sort of trip, and an extra 2 mile walk to be so frustrated was not a good end to my day. Fortunately there was a Waterstones in the town centre so I had to walk there and buy some more maps. 

Welcome to Folkestone
I arrived at my hotel feeling miserable and lonely, and definitely not in the mood to be messed around with a sub-standard room (my wifi didn’t work so I had to move rooms after I had carefully strewn all of my wet kit and tent all over the place). It was just not my best afternoon. Roll on tomorrow!
a folly tower built on the edge of Littlestone-on-Sea

Day 379 Into Kent and Around Dungeness

Thursday 18 August 2016

Rye, East Sussex to New Romney, Kent

19 miles

New Romney Caravan Park

I packed up early and headed off to catch the bus back to Rye, arriving before 9 am. This gave me chance to wander once more through the town in the quiet of the early morning and to stop for a big breakfast in a cafe. 

the view from Rye down to the River Rother
I admired the view from Ypres Castle atop the hill and walked through the last remaining landgate built in 1329 from a grant by King Edward III to fortify the town. Then I dropped down to the River Rother, crossed the bridge and headed for Camber. 

crossing the River Rother
Camber Sands was the first sandy beach I had seen since Littlehampton; most of the South East coastline being shingle. The sandy beach was lovely (although a couple of weeks later I found out how lethal the currents can be when sadly a few people lost their lives swimming here). 

holidaymakers at Camber Sands
I walked past some lovely houses built at the back of the beach, one of which I had spent a night in (thanks Nicki) a couple of years ago, and been swimming in the sea 2 days before Christmas. This time I didn’t stop for a dip. 

houses at the back of the beach (4×4 vehicles required)
Rather than walk through the deep sand I climbed onto the sea wall to walk to Jury’s Gap, where I was forced inland to Lydd as there was no way across Lydd Ranges. The sea wall was part of a new coastal defence scheme and only opened in March 2016. It is designed to protect 1,400 homes and businesses across the low-lying marshland, sandwiched between the sea and the Military Canal. 

walking the sea wall to Jury’s Gap
It was going to be a boring, hot walk alongside the road to Lydd so I cut out about 3 miles by catching a bus. It saved me about an hour and carried across the county border into Kent. 

expansive views across Walland and Romney Marshes
From Lydd I followed the huge overhead power cables that tracked over the ranges and led me across Denge Marsh and Denge Beach to Dungeness. What an eerie place! 

Dungeness Power Station viewed from Lydd
I could hear gunfire on the Lydd Ranges and stopped to ask for guidance from a guard to check that I could reach Dungeness Power station following the road/track I was on. I passed a strange, dilapidated farm in the middle of the ranges and in the shadow of the power station pylons. As I walked past it there was a flock over a hundred gulls (I tried to count them) swirling high overhead and I thought I might have walked onto the set for a horror film. Very odd. 

following the power lines across the barren shingle to Dungeness Power Station
The landscape was so desolate and wind-blown, and of course the main ingredient on the ground was shingle. 

the long shingle beach following West Road to Dungeness
I knew I was walking towards a power station because the weather had turned grey and overcast. This surreal landscape was enhanced by a grey sky, a grey landscape and a grey sea. I had ventured into another world. 

arriving at Dungeness…it’s another world!
I had to endure some walking across the shingle to reach the power station and then the settlement of Dungeness. Weirdly, on the beach in the middle of nowhere, I passed several groups of people. There were the usual fishermen casting their lines from the beach and then there were several Asian families enjoying a day out. No one even looked at me so there was no opportunity to engage in conversation. Perhaps if they had I might have seen their red, alien eyes and been immediately extinguished (or maybe that just happens in the movies). 

Dungeness Lighthouse and one big house
I arrived at Dungeness, a strung-out town built on the shingle at the point of land where the West Road meets the East Road (these are the names given to the stretches of sea, they are not land-based roads). It was a place with an other-worldly feel to it so I felt compelled to stop at the Britannia Inn for fish and chips. 

Dungeness community: small houses spread about the shingle wasteland
Dungeness lighthouse dwarfed by the Power Station
Dungeness is a popular tourist destination and I had just missed a coach load of tourists. I could have paid to climb up the lighthouse; however, it didn’t seem worth it when everything around was grey and indistinguishable today. 

wooden shacks – some old, some new
Most of the Dungeness houses were wooden shacks, originally created from old railway carriages. (The one opposite the pub was apparently Queen Victoria’s personal carriage.) 

houses that were once railway carriages…
…was this one Queen Victoria’s personal railway carriage?
Some of the houses had been given “Grand Designs” makeovers and looked quite futuristic. It seemed like such a strange and fascinating place to me. 

Grand Designs?
I turned North and walked along the road to Littlestone-on-Sea, the seaward extension of New Romney. I walked along the road because the other option was to continue across the ever-widening shingle beach. I suppose I could have caught the miniature steam train that travels from Dungeness to Hythe along the small-gauge railway line behind the houses that line the road. Such an odd place. 

beware of small trains!
Behind the houses and the railway line was the Dungeness National Nature Reserve, one of the largest areas of vegetated shingle in Europe. This included old gravel pits, which were the habitat for bloodsucking medicinal leeches. I didn’t stop for a swim!

The New Romney Caravan Park was at the other end of the scale to the abominable place at Camber Sands. This one was run by an ex-Army man and he kept a small bit of grass for hikers, cyclists and the like who needed somewhere to pitch for the night. He charged me £7 and I was able to use the laundry and get a meal in the on-site bar. Perfect. 

this house was my favourite (it had a lovely garden and a poem inscribed on the side wall)

Day 289 The Tarka Trail around the River Taw

Wednesday 18 May 2016

Croyde Beach to Appledore

15 miles walked

Marshford Camping Site

Today’s walk was going to take me up the River Taw to Barnstaple and back down the other side. Most of the walking would be along the Tarka Trail, a Tarmac cycle path following the disused railway line. In order to get the most out of the day (and because it was raining when I left) I decided to get the bus along the North side of the River; that way I could fit in walking from Croyde to Braunton and also reach a campsite. 

looking back at Croyde Beach
It took 2 buses to get to Croyde, into- and out of- Braunton. I started where I had left off on Sunday, on Croyde Beach. The rain had stopped and the sun was coming out. I walked around the small headland and came face to face with the big expanse of Saunton Sands, backed by Braunton Burrows. 

Saunton Sands – beach and hotel
From the cliff, above the Saunton Sands Hotel, I could see down to the mouth of the River Taw estuary and just how enormous Braunton Burrows is; 1300 hectares of sand dunes at the heart of the North Devon biosphere reserve. Naturally the burrows are a SSSI and are home to more plant species than any other parish in England. They are also a playground for the Royal Marines who are based next door at RMB Chivenor (another ex-RAF base I never got to!).

the large expanse of Braunton Burrows
There were a few surfers in the sea and the waves were pretty big but I dropped down from the cliff into the burrows. I didn’t walk right to Crow Point at the end because I had too far to walk today, but instead walked halfway along American Road, an old track at the back of the burrows that was once used by the American military. In 1942, this section of coastline became an Assault Training Centre to prepare 10,000 US troops for the D-Day landings. Today it was very peaceful in the unexpected sunshine and I only saw dog walkers. 

I cut back across Braunton Great Field into the town of Braunton and stopped at the small museum to check out the WW2 history. I could also have gone to the British Surfing Museum. 

I had time for a nice coffee while I waited for a bus to Barnstaple. I was able to relax and enjoy a good view of the River Taw from the top deck. 

the view up the River Taw from Barnstaple’s ‘long bridge’
The bus station in Barnstaple is right by the Long Bridge over the River Taw, although, confusingly, there is now a much longer bridge for the road bypass. 

Fremington Quay (cyclists on the Tarka Trail)
I followed the Tarka Trail along the South shore of the River Taw. In the mid-1800s, Fremington Quay was the most important between Bristol and Land’s End. Now it just has a cafe with lovely homemade cakes. I realised I hadn’t been eating enough cream teas so here was the perfect opportunity. In the interests of science I tried one scone the Devon way (jam on cream) and one the Cornish way (cream on jam). I can safely say that both were equally delicious. 

kite surfers on the River Torridge at Instow Sands, Appledore across the river
The Rivers Taw and Torridge meet at Appledore, opposite Braunton Burrows. At Instow, for £1.50, I could catch a ferry across the Torridge (only around high tide). I had timed it perfectly. 

the ferry arriving to take me across the Torridge (it was choppy and I got soaked)
First though I had to walk past the 2 RM beach landing craft parked on Instow Sands. 

Royal Marine landing craft on Instow Sands, Appledore across the river
Instow and Appledore both seemed like Nice towns, prettily painted and well kept. I had to walk up the hill out of Appledore to my campsite but, fortunately, I was able to use my bus ticket to get back into town for dinner at the pub. It was quiz and curry night at The Beaver. 

looking back across the River Torridge to Instow
Appledore had some famous residents!

Day 276 Portishead, Clevedon and Weston-Super-Mare

Thursday 5 May 2016

Portishead to Weston-Super-Mare

19 miles (+ bus)

Claire and Terry’s house (Laura’s friend)

It was a very early start to leave Wales for the final time on this trip. My watch said 7 am when Laura dropped me off near Portishead and I walked along a cycle path, past huge car parks for new cars, to Portishead Marina. This used to be home to 2 coal-fired power stations; now it’s the home of luxury yachts and apartments. 

Portishead Marina
There was a path that skirted the edge of Portishead and went along the cliffs to Clevedon. This was a really nice walk. 

Woodhill Bay, Portishead
a not-very-impressive pool by Black Nore (the Severn Bridge almost visible in the background)
It was developing into a hot, sunny day so the views across to Wales were a bit hazy. There were lots of woody bits and plenty of bluebells. At one point I disturbed a deer and a buzzard. 
looking across to Wales

lovely cliff path to Clevedon (plenty of bluebells)

Black Nore lighthouse, Portishead
Clevedon had a look of Victorian elegance. I stopped at the first cafe for some refreshment and to use the facilities (North Somerset council charges to use its public toilets). 

approaching Clevedon
I had decided to get the bus to Weston-Super-Mare as there was no coast path from Clevedon and I would have to walk inland and cross the M5 twice to get there. That seemed too boring. This way I spent an hour wandering around Clevedon. 

Clevedon’s Victorian pier
The Victorian pier was built in 1869 and Clevedon claims it to be one of the finest in England; it does look pretty. 
Clevedon
Further around the sea front is Marine Lake, a bathing pool built in 1929 and saved and refurbished last year. I suppose these lakes are the only places to bathe as I’m not sure it’s possible to do so in the estuary; it’s either mud flats or muddy water. 

Clevedon’s Marine Lake
Marine Lake and the pier
On the small hill at the end of the bay is a lookout that was built mid-19th Century to view sugar ships coming up the channel from the West Indies. 

a view of the pier from the lookout
I caught the bus by the old Curzon cinema, reputedly one of the oldest continually-running cinemas in the world. 

Clevedon’s Curzon cinema
The only obvious road between Clevedon and Weston is the M5, so that’s the bus route between the towns. 

Weston-Super-Mare’s golden beach
It was 1pm and very hot and sunny when I arrived at Weston sea front. There was so much beach, and it was busy – lots of older people and parents with young children enjoying the sun. There was a fairground, a pier and donkey rides to be enjoyed, but not by me. I applied suncream and sun hat and walked along the promenade. 

why not park on the beach? (Brean Down in the background)
The tide was out and I couldn’t see the sea. I walked past the pier and Weston’s Marine Lake, and around to Birnbeck Island at the point of the headland. The old pier to this island, and the old IRB station were just wrecks waiting to be dismantled or fall into the sea. Such a shame. 

Weston’s Marine Lake (Steep Holm in the distance)
Birnbeck Island and wrecked pier
Worlebury Hill separates Weston Bay from Sand Bay to the North and I walked around it, via a path through the woods. Sand Bay looked quieter and had dunes behind it, but still no sea. 

Sand Bay
I stopped briefly at the pub for a cool drink and then headed up and over Worlebury Hill, through the woods and past the remains of an Iron Age fort, back to Weston Bay. 

the tide right out at Sand Bay
I was staying with Laura’s friend, Claire, who had kindly offered to put me up for the night and cook me dinner. At the end of a long hot day I was glad to be inside for the evening and must have consumed a couple of litres of water. 

Art by Bikesy in Weston Woods

Day 259 Carmarthen to Llanelli

Monday 18 April 2016

Llansteffan to Llanelli

15 miles (+ bus and train)

Coastal Park Accommodation and Grill

I was up early and keen to leave. I had discovered there was a bus from the end of the road into Carmarthen, which would save me a road walk. I caught the bus. Driving into Carmarthen I was struck by the amazing sports facilities – a running track, rugby pitches, indoor rugby training facility and more.  

welcome to Carmarthen!
 I had intended to catch a train from Carmarthen to Kidwelly as the train line runs next to the coast, whereas the path takes you inland (presumably to avoid the train). I had a long enough gap between bus and train to get a coffee and a bacon and egg sandwich for breakfast. I contemplated hanging around in Carmarthen for a couple of hours and getting the next train (they come at 2 hour intervals) but the man in the cafe suggested there wasn’t much to see in Carmarthen, just the Roman amphitheatre, which apparently takes 3 seconds. However, when I said I was heading for Llanelli he suggested I stay in Carmarthen.  

Carmarthen Castle in the heart of the town
 I caught the early train and watched the Afon Tywi go by out of the window.  

looking back across the Tywi to Llansteffan and Wharley Point
 Kidwelly is a small town “dominated by its castle”. I couldn’t see the castle, I think it was hidden amongst the houses and, having seen enough castles recently, I didn’t bother to hunt for it.  

Kymer’s Canal
 My walk began by following the 3-mile long Kymer’s Canal. It was built in 1768 to connect Kidwelly Quay with the collieries in the Gwendraeth Fawr valley and was Wales’ earliest industrial canal. It looks very small now.  

approaching Pembrey Forest along the edge of salt marsh
 I walked passed Pembrey airfield, through Pembrey Forest and popped out on Cefn Sidan Sands; 8 miles of golden sand and fantastic views of Carmarthen Bay and the Gower peninsula.   

looking across Carmarthen Bay
The Gower from Cefn Sidan Sands
 At the end of the beach is Pembrey Country Park, on the site of the former Pembrey Royal Ordnance Factory (which apparently suffered the first bombing raid of “The Blitz”). It provides lots of leisure activities, from Segway to skiing!  

skiing in Pembrey anyone?
 The next 21 km, from Pembrey to the Loughor Bridge, would be through the Millenium Coastal Park. This park seems to have been created to fill the gap left behind by all the heavy industry that used to be on the North bank of the Loughor Estuary.  

the start of the Millenium Coastal Park
 I made my way past Burry Port (built to take over the coal export duties from Kidwelly and Pembrey in the 1830s) and into Llanelli.  

a Millenium Coastal Park marker at Burry Port
 I stopped to admire the rugby posts, complete with model of Phil Bennett evading an All Black, that have been sited to commemorate the Scarlet’s old ground, Stradey Park (now a housing estate). An old man started talking to me about it and was impressed I knew of Phil Bennett. He loved Llanelli a lot more than the man in the cafe this morning; he told me he has a caravan at Wiseman’s Bridge but after a few nights there he has to come home because he misses it.  

it’s all about rugby around here (there are saucepans on the top of these posts!)
 Ironically, the old man had initially stopped me to ask why I wasn’t cold (wearing only shorts and a t-shirt) and, after 20 minutes talking to him as the wind picked up, I was now freezing. I only had a mile to go, past the Water Park (on the site of the old Llanelly Steel Works) and into town. How pleasant to be staying somewhere clean. I didn’t go out for the evening as I was able to get a homemade curry at the guest house.  

 

Day 251 Across Milford Haven to Pembroke Castle

Saturday 9 April 2016

St Ishmael’s to Pembroke

8 miles

High Noon Guest House

After a cosy night on Skomer I breakfasted well: boiled eggs (provided by Joan) on buttered toast (provided by Carole). There was chance for a bit more bird watching as we waited for the boat to take us back to the mainland.  

leaving Skomer
  
Skomer looking lovely when the sun came out
 Carol and Ollie very kindly gave me a lift to St Ishmael’s, next village around the inlet from Dale. This cut out about 5 miles of road walking I would have had to do to get back on track. They dropped me at the end of a track leading down to the coast path where there happened to be a picnic table and toilets. I stopped to eat my leftover cheese sandwiches and cake.  

looking across Great Castle Head and Milford Haven
 The sun came out and the views across Milford Haven were lovely. It was a very pleasant walk and the primroses were out by the side of the path.   

Pembroke oil refinery
 
looking back to St Ann’s Head at the mouth of Milford Haven
 I had the strangest encounter with an old man called David Terasconi. He stopped me and pretty much talked at me for 20 minutes. It was the oddest thing. I don’t think he took a breath in all that time so I couldn’t even interject to close the conversation if I had wanted to. I learned all about his life history (his mum had severe epilepsy, his dad was Italian, fought in Abyssinia and was on a boat that was torpedoed. He was found clinging to debris in the sea 3 days later). David was a bit part actor and name-dropped every celebrity and famous person who is Welsh or has ever been to Wales (he’s met most of them and had connections to The Beatles). He had wanted to drive F1 cars but had driven Formula Ford, been to Silverstone and gets invited to test drive cars and go to events (although you have to pay for the privilege and so he doesn’t go). After meeting some of the Eastenders actors (Martine McCutcheon et al) on the coast path he’s hoping for an acting role in it. David eventually let me go and I confess to feeling completely bewildered for a good few minutes, but I am sure that encounter did actually happen. (He was walking with another man who sensibly left him when he stopped to chat to me.) 

Sandyhaven Pill at low tide
 It was close enough to low tide for me to cross the Sandyhaven Pill via the little bridge and then I skirted around the edge of South Hook LNG Terminal. I counted 5 forts between St Ann’s Head and Milford Haven, two of them on little islands. 

Two islands forts viewed from South Hook LNG Terminal

another fort at Gelliswick Bay
 I arrived at Milford Haven, a large town, on a Saturday afternoon and yet it seemed oddly deserted.  

Milford Haven waterfront
 Down by the harbour area the bus to Pembroke was ready to leave so I made a snap decision to hop on board and do the next bit around Neyland, across the Aber Daugleddau and around Pembroke Dock the easy way.  

crossing the bridge over Milford Haven to Pembroke Dock
 It was only 3.30 pm when I arrived at Pembroke so I had a couple of hours to take a look around Pembroke Castle.  

crossig Pembroke River to Pembroke Castle
 It is one of the best I’ve come across and was the birthplace of Henry VII, the founder of the Tudor Dynasty.  

Pembroke Castle
 The first Pembroke Castle was built by the Normans at the end of the 11th Century and after that it was fought over throughout the Middle Ages, but it was never won by the Welsh.  

Pembroke Castle, complete with map of all Welsh castles
 I spent the evening doing a bit of planning and had an (unexpectedly) really nice meal in the King’s Arms by the castle. It was only unexpected because Pembroke on a Saturday night didn’t look overly inviting and the pubs looked more like drinking dens. I shouldn’t judge the book… 

 

Day 244 Fishguard Ferry Port

Saturday 2 April 2016

Newport to Fishguard/Goodwick

9 miles (+ bus)

Seaview Hotel

The heavy rain that started yesterday afternoon carried on all through the night and was still going as I ate my Welsh breakfast and delayed departing. Always nice to see the upbeat tv weather forecaster proclaiming a warm, sunny day across everywhere except SW Wales and NW England. Oh well, out into the rain I went fully suited up.  

looking across the Nevern estuary to Dinas Head
 I crossed the Nevern Estuary and headed along the edge of Newport, the path sandwiched between the stony beach and the garden walls of some lovely houses. (I later found out Newport is apparently one of the most expensive places to buy a house in Wales.) 

looking back at Newport on the right and Newport Links golf course on the left of the Nevern estuary
 Finally I was up on the cliff path heading towards Dinas Head. The path was incredibly muddy and I found myself slip-sliding at a snail’s pace. The views weren’t great, there was no wildlife about and it wasn’t long before I was soaked to the skin.  

Dinas Head and the muddy cliffs
 I hit the road into Cwm-yr-Eglwys, yet another quaint little village nestled in a cove with a beach.  

Cwm-yr-Eglwys
 This one had a ruined church, St Brynach’s, that was destroyed in the Royal Charter storm of 1859. The Royal Charter was one of 114 ships lost off the Welsh coast in that storm.  

St Brynach’s ruined church
 I decided there was no point walking around Dinas Head as it would just be a trudge up a muddy cliff top with no views to admire. Instead I took the tarmac’d shortcut across the ‘neck’ of Dinas Island (not really an island) to Pwlldwaelod – a mirror image of Cwm-y-Egwlys except with a pub instead of a ruined church. A good place to stop for a coffee and reevaluate my day. To be honest I wasn’t fancying another 6 miles slip-sliding along a cliff path. I took stock and found I could head less than a mile inland to Dinas Cross and catch a bus to Fishguard. Sorted.  

Dinas Cross Blacksmiths
 Bus drivers are great. This one stopped to let me off at the top of the hill on the way down into Fishguard Lower Town so I could go and look at the Old Fort at Castle Point.  

Fishguard fort guarding the port
 The fort was built in 1781 in response to the French Revolutionaries’ attempt to invade Fishguard four years earlier. The French seriously underestimated the size of the forces ranges against them (apparently the French spies mistook women wearing Welsh national costume for soldiers) and unconditionally surrendered (how unusual for the French!). Crisis averted but the prosperous town decided it needed to protect its port and so built a fort and armed it with a militia (3 invalid gunners from Woolwich – should be enough to take on the French). What a story. I thought the best part was that when the French landed the local cobbler, Jemima Nicholas, marched out with a pitchfork, captured 12, and went back for more! 

The Old Fort
 Fishguard Lower Town is nestled in a natural harbour and from here you can take the lovely Marine Walk up and around the small headland to face Goodwick (there’s no ‘w‘ in Good-ick) and the port.  

Fishguard Lower Town
 Fishguard ferry terminal is actually in Goodwick and was built by the Great Western Railway company in 1902 to try and attract transatlantic liners. In 1909 the Mauretania dropped and, until The First World War, Fishguard was a regular stop for Cunards flagship liners, the Mauretania and the Lusitania. After WW1 Cunard moved its operation to Southampton.  

The ferry leaving for Rosslare (I wonder if it’s sunny there?)
 Goodwick’s other claim to fame is that in 1912 it was the take-off point for Denys Corbett Wilson when he became the first person to fly from Britain to Ireland. It took him 1 hour 40 minutes in his Beriot XI.  

Looking back to the Old Fort and Dinas Head
 My hotel was on its own next to the main road. I was thankful to have arrived as I was wet and cold. My heart sank when I read the sign saying the bar was open nightly until 2.30am. However, upon chatting to Kylie, the owner, it is open until then to cater for the last ferry passengers (in particular those who miss the last ferry sailing at 2 am). Kylie’s dad set up the hotel because he used to catch (and sometimes miss) that ferry and the town of Fishguard, despite relying on the ferry for its business, does not really cater to the ferry. So Kylie’s family moved here from Coventry and now, if you need a cup of tea, a sandwich, or to warm a baby’s bottle at 2 am, you will find a warm welcome at the Seaview hotel. (Don’t ask for a taxi at that time though – the local taxi drivers aren’t interested.)

I had a nice evening chatting in the bar to Kylie and an American lady who was visiting Ffald-y-Brenin Christian retreat in Newport. It seems every restaurant has faggots on the menu (a local dish here and in the Midlands) so I decided to try them this evening. Not bad actually.  

faggots and gravy (Jodie I bet you’re jealous!)

Day 242 A Mound At Mwnt and a Cardigan in Cardigan

Thursday 31 March 2016

Aberporth to Cardigan 

13 miles

Highbury Guest House

Another sunny day was promised so I put my shorts on. Naturally this put me at quite a juxtaposition with most other people I saw all day who were wrapped up in hats and coats. My cold, goose pimples skin enjoyed the extra dose of vitamin D.

My first big Welsh breakfast this morning to set me off. I caught the bus back to Aberporth, which meant missing out 5 miles from Llangrannog. There were a few bonuses to this: 1) I can get a bus rather than a taxi, 2) some walkers I met advised me the section between Penbryn and Tresaith is the muddiest bit, 3) hopefully I’ll reach Cardigan early enough to do a bit of sightseeing.  

Aberporth beach (Ynys Lochtyn in the background)
 Aberporth beach was sandy and deserted. The town was very quiet. I realised that it hadn’t woken up yet when I ascended the steep hill up to MOD Aberporth; I saw several ladies putting their rubbish out, all in dressing gowns (it was almost 10 am!).  

MOD Aberporth
 MOD Aberporth is used by QinetiQ to test Unmanned Aerial Systems and air launched munitions. I skirted around it and headed into the cliff top. It reminded me of Durham, bisected by lots of small, steep gulleys with clear streams. Good job I like ups and downs! 

Foel-y-Mwnt and the Church of the Holy Cross
 The conical hill, Foel-y-Mwnt, sticks out like a beacon. It was shaped by an ice age glacier and demands to be climbed. From the top I got the best view of Cardigan Island. I couldn’t see any of the dummy puffins that have been put on Cardigan Island to try and entice real ones back to nest. The population was wiped out by a plague of rats accidentally introduced by a shipwreck.  

Cardigan Island from the top of Foel-y-Mwnt
 At the base of Foel-y-Mwnt is the pretty little Church of the Holy Cross. A tiny 13th Century building at the start point for pilgrims embarking for Bardsey Island from Mwnt beach.  

Foel-y-Mwnt and Mwnt beach
 I stopped for a quick instant coffee at Mwnt beach hut (the owner was also wearing shorts). Then it was around the corner at the mouth of the Aber Teifi. Gwbert sits right at the entrance to the river, looking across at Poppit Sands. There were a few big houses here.  

looking across the mouth of the Aber Teifi to Cemaes Head, Poppit Sands on the left
 As I approached Cardigan (otherwise known as Aberteifi) I passed a sewage treatment works. Nothing unusual about that; however, just below it, hidden in the trees by the water’s edge, was a camp. This was clearly someone’s permanent home as I could see a chimney emanating from the tarpaulin, washing on a line and even a swing seat made from crates. I found the path down to it, marked by a hand rope tied to the trees. I started to walk down but a man emerged from the tent and I suddenly felt like I was trespassing. I doubt he pays council tax.  

a tented house below the sewage works
 I made it to Cardigan in time to take a look around the castle. Cardigan has an important place in Welsh history as for many years it was on the threshold between Welsh and English kingdoms. The first stone castle was built by Rhys Ap Gruffydd, Prince of Deheubarth, around 1165. He united some of the Welsh kingdoms and made Cardigan the centre of his court. The town seems most proud of the fact that, under Rhys, it was the birthplace of the Eisteddfod in 1176.  

The Big Chair to commemorate the 1176 Eisteddfod
 Cardigan was ruled by the English for many years (the castle was sold to the English when Rhys died) but it seems very Welsh now. There’s not much of the castle left, indeed there’s a house in the middle of it.  
the oldest bit of the castle – the 1244 North Tower
  

The view of the bridge over the Teifi from the castle walls
 I wandered up the high street and, on the recommendation of the nice lady in the castle, I headed into Pendre Art shop. Here, tucked in the back room, is a giant cardigan knitted by the townspeople to mark the 900th anniversary of Cardigan. What a brilliant idea. 

the history of Cardigan…on a cardigan
  
Cardigan’s cardigan
 I had an early dinner of delicious homemade pea, egg and ham pie in a cafe and headed back to my guest house for an early night.  

The Black Lion Mews

Day 220 Three Seaside Towns: Abersoch, Pwllheli and Criccieth

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Abersoch to Criccieth 

9.5 miles walked (+ bus)

George IV Hotel

Another lovely breakfast and another rainy and windy day. Steve and Jan drove me back to Abersoch.  

Abersoch
 I walked along the other of the town’s beaches, along The Warren. This was a really beautiful beach, with lovely golden sand, and behind it was the poshest caravan park I have seen.  

Abersoch’s beautiful beach in front of The Warren
 Some of the abodes were actually lodges and most had posh garden furniture and huge, tainted windows (and often a jet ski or motorboat parked outside). The development also had a health and fitness club and a couple of cafes.  

The decking of one of the seaside homes
  
Looking down on The Warren holiday park
 At the end of the beach I climbed the 132m high Mynydd Tîr-y-cwmwd. In good weather the views would be outstanding; today they were barely visible.   

St Tudwal’s Islands came into view
 The walk down into Llanbedrog first passes The Tin Man on the cliff top. This is the 3rd statue in this place overlooking the town.  
The Tin Man, Llanbedrog
 I headed down through the woods and grounds belonging to the Plas Glyn-y-Weddw, a dower house built in 1857 for Lady Love Jones Parry of Madryn.  

The Tin Man’s view of Llanbedrog, complete with brightly painted beach huts
 
Glyn-y-Weddw
  It is now an art gallery and cafe. I stopped to admire the paintings and get a coffee.  
The view from the house
  
Looking back at the lovely woods covering the cliff above Llanbedrog
 It was an easy walk into Pwllheli along the path that skirted Y Gamlas bay.  

Y Gamlas Bay
 From Pwllheli the coast path mostly follows the road to Criccieth so, because I didn’t fancy a 2nd night in Pwllheli, I caught a bus to Criccieth.  

Y Gamlas Bay
 It hadn’t rained much all day, although the air was wetter than damp and there was a fair bit of mizzle (mist/drizzle). I arrived at my hotel, dumped my rucksack, and headed straight out to walk around Criccieth. The heavens opened and I got soaked! At least I got a quick look at the castle (which was closed) and the nice town. I liked the architecture and the cobbled footpaths opposite the castle.  

Criccieth Castle
 Criccieth Castle is perched on a small headland and was built by Llywelyn the Great. Fifty years after it was built King Edward I took the castle by force and later improved it. The town grew up around it.  

Criccieth beach at sunset
 No sooner had I got back to my hotel than the sun came out in order to provide a sunset. I had to go out again to admire it! 

Beautiful sunset
 Steve and Jan had recommended The Spice Bank (an old bank turned into a restaurant) so I had a nice curry for dinner.  

Criccieth Castle

Day 215 Nant Gwrtheyrn Granite Valley

Friday 6 November 2015

Trefor to Nefyn

10 miles

The Victoria Hotel, Pwllheli 

Bad weather seems to be setting in. My head was a bit sore this morning but I soldiered on through my full cooked breakfast. From Caernarfon there is a short walk (mostly on minor roads) around Foryd Bay and then it’s a long stretch alongside the main road again. I decided to miss this out and caught a bus to Trefor. This way I would have plenty of time to complete what looked on the map like a very hilly section.   

today I officially started walking the Llyn Coastal Path
 As I sat on the bus the rain became torrential and I could feel the wind moving the bus. I amused the other passengers by donning full waterproofs as we drove along. 

Trefor beach in the rain
 Trefor looked to be a fishing village, although I couldn’t see much through the driving rain. The coast path keeps to the low cliffs around Trefor and, only when I reached the end, could I just about see the huge mountain (Yr Eifl) looming ahead of me, shrouded by rain cloud. The path went directly up it. Zigzagging is for wimps! 
It’s not very easy to see Yr Eifl in this weather
 I walked up this long, steep hill as slowly as I could, trying to avoid sweating. It was a good idea but it failed. It wasn’t long before I was soaked both inside and out. Oh well. Despite the appalling weather conditions, very low visibility and slight hangover, I was enjoying myself. Needless to say I didn’t meet another walker all day and I revelled in the isolation that the weather had brought. I hummed and talked to myself (and the wildlife – these days I always talk to the birds, the cows, the sheep et al) and no one was there to consider me strange. It was just me, on my own, in a wilderness I couldn’t see. I was very appreciative of the excellent coast path signs as they made navigation a whole lot easier.   

Looking down on Nant Gwrtheyrn
 At the top of the first ‘cliff’, which was actually a pass between two peaks, 350m above sea level, I joined the North Wales Pilgrims Way. This was a well-trodden path across Graig Ddu (hardy lot those pilgrims) and led me to a deserted car park. From here there was a small road that went down the steep hill (30% incline but this time there were a couple of hairpin bends thrown in). At the bottom was the Nant Gwrtheyrn Welsh Language Centre. What a location! As I approached it my first thought was that I had found what the Welsh Assembly spends its money on but, after visiting the heritage centre, I’m inclined to be a bit more charitable.  
smartly refurbished workers’ houses
 
Due to the appalling weather and consequent lack of visibility I had no idea, until I arrived at Nant Gwrtheyrn, that I had been skirting a huge granite quarry. What a place; a granite valley, in the shadow of the 3 peaks of Yr Eifl, opening out onto the Irish Sea.  

The view from Nant Gwrtheyrn to the headland at Gwylfa
 In the 18th Century this small valley, which looked, from the photos, like a half-bowl open to the sea, was home to 3 farming families.  

Ty Hen, one of the 3 original farmhouses
 In 1851 The Nant’s first commercial granite quarry was opened and construction of Porth y Nant village began in this isolated place in 1863. By 1915 demand for granite was falling, quarries began to close and the last family left the village in 1959. The Nant Gwrtheyrn Trust bought and renovated the village and it became a Welsh Language Centre in 1982. It now looks very smart.  

The caffi and centre overlooking the sea
 I stopped at the caffi for a hot coffee and a scone (served with Cornish clotted cream, proving the village is no longer isolated). I was the only person they’d seen all day; however, I noticed they were gearing up for a wedding reception in the large room next door.  

Is this part of the oak tree from one of the local folk tales, the one about Rhys and Meinir?
 After half an hour I put my dripping waterproofs back on over my soaked clothes and headed out for the next instalment. The sea was loud and raging and I had another steep climb out of the valley.  

the cloud lifted slightly and I could see the Nant valley tucked in the cliff
 The thing about days when the weather is awful is that at some point the smallest thing, or the glimpse of a view, becomes so much more special. That moment happened as I came over the top of Gwylfa just as the rain stopped and the cloud lifted a bit. There, laid out in front of me, was a great view down to Nefyn and along the North Lleyn coast. Breathtaking. I fairly skipped the rest of the way. I reached Nerfyn just in time to catch the 3 pm bus to Pwllheli (the next one was 4.30).  

The view down to Nefyn suddenly appeared as I crested the hill – this photo does not do it justice
 Cheap accommodation is relatively scarce out of season on the Lleyn Peninsula, hence having to get the bus to Pwllheli. I had booked a room but, when I arrived at the horrible-looking bar where I was staying they couldn’t provide me with what is booked on laterooms.com. After hanging around for 40 minutes, soaking wet, while the barmaid tried to sort out the right room I left. Thank goodness for 3G phone coverage as I managed to find the Victoria Hotel and the proprietor, Ross, was very helpful. This place was better and the people were friendly. My room soon looked like a Chinese laundry. (But I always leave it clean and tidy the next day.) 

Everything looks different when it stops raining; the beautiful North Lleyn coastline